The need for some real discussion about energy was never more apparent than the storms and half a million people without power. And then, the next day, the sun came up. Only my 4.5KW solar array had nowhere to send the power, because without the grid, the grid-tie inverter turns off, to prevent overloading itself and feeding power back into a downed line.
Fortunately, we had started installing some Lumencache lights and we at least had battery-powered lights in the kitchen. But everything else was off.
Today I got a loaner standalone 1000 watt inverter on-loan from the installer that put in our system, so I could run the fridge again directly from the panels and small battery bank I have for testing.
But the kind of energy option we should be talking about is where 20% of the electricity in Minneapolis comes from solar panels on roofs, with half of the systems with battery back up and smart-grid energy storage capability, so that we could simply turn off the television, stoves, and AC units, and still have enough power to run refrigerators during the day, even with downed power lines.
This is part of my plan for 100% renewables in 10 years. I modified my system and had power (at least for my fridge) restored before Xcel did, and then when Xcel finally connected me to the coal-fired generators in North Dakota, my solar array happily started feeding back power to our neighbors.
This brings up another point.. we need those connections to North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois. The system works better when we share the abundance of wind energy in the rural areas, and overhead transmission lines are the most effective way to do that. But not in town.
Part of my plan for 100% renewables in 10 years is lay out the plan and timeline to bury residential power distribution lines in the alleys, and at the same time put in geothermal exchange loops, and conduit for high-speed fiber optic. The fiber optic conduit will be open to anyone, Comcast, Google, Centurylink, USI internet, as well as homeowners associations who want to own their own last mile.